Boreal Owl StudyOpening Night
by Dan Hartman
Feb. 28, 2022It's nearly that time of year again.
Every March 1st I begin my 6 week owl survey, centering mostly on Boreal Owls.
It's been a mostly mild winter, although we just went through our coldest stretch of the winter with temperatures hanging around 10 to 20 below every night last week. However our snow stake reads snow levels just below 2 feet.
Now I just said my study begins March 1st. Having said that, an upcoming snowstorm, together with 40mph winds predicted pushed my opening date up a bit.
So Cindy and I went out last ngiht to get a feel on what to expect this spring.
First a bit of history. The number of songs heard directly predicts what kind of owl season is materializing. And how the boreal owls go, so goes the great grays, pygmys, saw-whets and so on.
Here's the past years and the number of songs heard.
Year Songs Year Songs Year Songs
2010 90 2011 2 2012 77
2013 17 2014 6 2015 101
2016 46 2017 5 2018 13
2019 43 2020 44 2021 8
Cindy and I ventured out a little after 8pm. Stars filled the sky as it was pitch dark with no moon.
At listening post #1 we listened for a time but heard nothing. There were wind gusts passing through the higher slopes.
At post #1.5 (which means we moved one mile instead of the usual two miles). We heard only breezes. This was disappointing as this is usually one of our more consistant locations for songs.
On to post #2. All was silent except for the rising breeze and a jet headed for Denver. It's becoming clear, an owl will have to be fairly close for us to hear him. This was the location for our first nest in 2010.
Post # 3 was also a bit breezy, but I heard a song just to the northwest. After that we heard partial songs that drifted in and out through the wind.
Post #3.5 locations of nests in the past, gave us only wind sounds.
Post #4 The wind was at it's worst as we were perched on an open hill, so we heard nothing.
Post #5 was still a bit breezy but we could have heard one if it was singing. This is one of the best nesting areas, so we were disappointed.
Post #6 Only sounds of the wind and a jet.
Post #7 A boreal was singing quite close by. We moved down the road and had him calling some 25 yards to the south along the creek.
Post #8 (our cabin) was silent.
Post #9 Wind was unbearable.
So there it was. Two songs total. Conditions far less than perfect.
A friend of mine went out last week and heard two songs on my line. And I have heard a boreal calling from our cabin on two occasions. Combine this and we've had a total of 4 boreals singing. It is early and I really shouldn't make any predictions until mid March.
I'll keep you posted!